Sat. Oct 31st, 2020

Man Utd

News

Marcelo Bielsa is giving Manchester City cast-off a new lease of life at Leeds

3 min read

No discussion of this Leeds United phenomenon can be complete before we see what happens when spring arrives. 

Will their intensity remain viable when they face Manchester City and Liverpool again, with Manchester United thrown in for good measure, in the space of 15 days next April?

But for now, the uplifting part is Marcelo Bielsa’s proof that a club can prosper through the old core value of good coaching — his coaching — rather than contribute to the hyper-inflation of a transfer market which is about to see Edinson Cavani, 33, arrive at Manchester United on £220,000 a week.

Ian Poveda's superb cameo for Leeds against Man City shows old fashioned coaching can work

Ian Poveda’s superb cameo for Leeds against Man City shows old fashioned coaching can work

Marcelo Bielsa used the winger to good effect in the 1-1 draw at home to City on Saturday

Marcelo Bielsa used the winger to good effect in the 1-1 draw at home to City on Saturday

Ian Poveda, outstanding on the right wing after Bielsa introduced him at half-time on Saturday, was so far from a place in Manchester City’s first team that Pep Guardiola did not even meet him for a talk before letting him leave for Elland Road in January.

But Bielsa most certainly did want to look Poveda in the eye. At Leeds, they remember the way the Argentine micro-managed the player when he gave him an hour of football at home to Derby in July. 

‘Again, Poveda! Move Poveda! Now, Poveda!’ he screamed from the side-lines.

Bielsa said he has been surprised by the trajectory of development which saw Poveda look comfortable and intelligent as he made Benjamin Mendy look very ordinary. 

Poveda used to play under Pep Guardiola (right) at Man City before Leeds signed him

Poveda used to play under Pep Guardiola (right) at Man City before Leeds signed him

‘When I first saw him, I did not think he was going to have the impact and evolution he is having,’ Bielsa said. ‘He has physical resources I haven’t seen before. He is a player who in sprints and distance covered has immense values.’

Poveda waited five months for his debut and six months for his first start but he does not lack confidence.

‘I haven’t seen a player who’s taken to a group as well as he has taken,’ Stuart Dallas observed when the player had just arrived in January.

Giving a chance to a player like Poveda, who played in the City academy with Phil Foden, is more complicated for Guardiola. 

Poveda (left) is still developing in English football and is expected to play a big role at Leeds

Poveda (left) is still developing in English football and is expected to play a big role at Leeds

For years, City’s mantra has been the establishment of two world class players in every position. There is less scope to take risks.

But that has meant relinquishing Jadon Sancho to Borussia Dortmund, only to find Manchester United willing to pay north of £90million for him. Vast resources bring no guarantees.

Is £63m Rodri really a better sentry in front of defence than Kalvin Phillips, a player so integral to Leeds that Guardiola instructed his side to suffocate him at Elland Road? 

As right wing-backs go, Kyle Walker could not touch the outstanding Luke Ayling and Leeds got what they deserved when Rodrigo headed a second-half equaliser after Raheem Sterling’s brilliant solo goal.

Guardiola believes Poveda (above) will get better and better under Bielsa's style of play

Guardiola believes Poveda (above) will get better and better under Bielsa’s style of play

Poveda, who is in the England age group setup but could play for Colombia, joins Jack Harrison in the ranks of City youth products finding new life under Bielsa. 

He reached City by way of their sister club New York City FC, only to find himself out on loan for three years.

Asked about Poveda, whose sole City appearance came in a Carabao Cup semi-final win at Burton when 9-0 up from the first leg, Guardiola was phlegmatic. 

‘I’m pretty sure he came here at one kind of level and when I see the second half his development through Marcelo is getting better,’ he said.

But if he and Harrison continue on their early Premier League trajectory, City may begin to question why they are spending small fortunes while letting young prospects go.

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